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Budget Magic: $94 (13 tix) Simic Arkbow (Standard, Magic Arena)

Kablaaw, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! War of the Spark Standard seems pretty awesome so far, so we're going to continue to explore the new format this week with a deck built around one of the sweetest cards from the set: Vivien's Arkbow! In some sense, Simic Arkbow is sort of a weird, tempo-y Simic Flash deck built to leave up all of its mana every turn and then either cast a powerful flash creature like Frilled Mystic or Dream Eater or use Vivien's Arkbow to dig through our deck and find another creature for value. While grinding out value is great, we can also do some silly things by essentially using Vivien's Arkbow to play creatures that shouldn't have flash at instant speed, like using Tempest Caller to tap down our opponent's team before they can attack or Exclusion Mage to bounce something at instant speed and potentially block something else for the surprise two-for-one. Can Vivien's Arkbow work on a budget in War of the Spark Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Simic Arkbow

The Deck

Simic Arkbow is basically a Simic tempo or flash deck looking to grind out value at instant speed by flashing in creatures or by activating Vivien's Arkbow. To break down the deck, we should probably start with Vivien's Arkbow itself and then work through our creatures.

The Arkbow

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Vivien's Arkbow is the centerpiece of our deck, and it's absurdly powerful. The biggest upside of Vivien's Arkbow is how cheap it is, coming down on Turn 2 to sneak in under the counterspells of control decks. After it's on the battlefield, it ranges from close to unbeatable to very good. The trick here is that our deck has a bunch of flash creatures, which means we get to leave up all of our mana on each of our turns and choose between using our flash creatures or activating Vivien's Arkbow. The other main power of Vivien's Arkbow is that it allows us to play non-flash creatures at instant speed, which allows for some really sweet tricks that we'll talk about momentarily. Oh yeah, and with a bit of luck (and enough mana), we can sort of use Vivien's Arkbow to tutor through our deck to find the right creatures for the right situation (like Frilled Mystic with a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria on the stack). Basically, Vivien's Arkbow does it all, allowing us to beat counters, do instant-speed shenanigans, and turn our extra lands into powerful creatures. It's the card we want to see most in our opening hand in just about every game and matchup.

Card Draw

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The rest of our deck is entirely creatures (and lands) that we can tutor up with Vivien's Arkbow. When it comes to generating card advantage, Fblthp, the Lost is our main engine. While casting it from our hand as a legendary, blue Elvish Visionary is fine, it's especially powerful when we hit it with Vivien's Arkbow and draw two cards. One of the downsides of Vivien's Arkbow is that the cost is not just mana but discarding a card. In the late game, once we are topdecking, this often leaves us in a position where, no matter how good of a card we draw for our turn, it's better to hold it and discard it to Vivien's Arkbow. Getting some double draws with Fblthp, the Lost helps solve this issue, giving us enough cards in hand that we can cast something and still have a leftover card for Vivien's Arkbow.


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Frilled Mystic is perfect for Simic Arkbow, giving us a counterspell on a reasonable body that we can hit with Vivien's Arkbow. Often, we try to work ourselves into a position where we have Frilled Mystic in hand and can leave it up. But if our opponent doesn't cast anything we need to counter, we can spend our mana to activate Vivien's Arkbow and find a creature from our deck. It's also worth keeping in mind that if our opponent casts something especially powerful and we don't have a Frilled Mystic in hand, we can dig through our deck with Vivien's Arkbow in the hopes of finding a Frilled Mystic from our deck to counter the spell.

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Merfolk Trickster and Exclusion Mage allow us to interact with our opponent's creatures—Merfolk Trickster by tapping them down and Exclusion Mage by returning them to our opponent's hand. One of the drawbacks of being Simic is that we don't really get good hard-removal spells, which leaves us leaning more on tempo plays like these. On the other hand, both Merfolk Trickster and Exclusion Mage are solid in our deck, and while they won't get rid of our opponent's creatures forever, they do hold our opponent's creatures back long enough for us to pick up a lot of wins. Exclusion Mage is especially sweet with Vivien's Arkbow since we can flash it into play during combat after our opponent attacks, return one attacker to hand, and potentially block and kill another to generate a two-for-one.


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There isn't a ton to say about Incubation Druid and Llanowar Elves—they come down early and help us ramp into our more powerful plays. Plus, both work well with Vivien's Arkbow. While we have a lot of cheap creatures in our deck so activating Arkbow for just a few mana is fine, the more mana we can dump into Vivien's Arkbow each turn, the more likely we will be to hit the perfect card for any given situation.


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When it comes to closing out the game, we sometimes win just by annoying our opponent to death with all of our tricky instant-speed creatures and Vivien's Arkbow value, but we also have a couple of dedicated finishers at the top end of our curve. Dream Eater is insane in our deck. When it in our hand, it gives us another flash creature we can leave up and cast (if necessary), or we can activate Vivien's Arkbow at the end of our opponent's turn (if we don't need to bounce anything). More importantly, it synergizes with Vivien's Arkbow as the surveil four allows us to stack the top of our deck to help increase the odds of hitting the creature we want. Plus, as a four-power flier, it gets in for a reasonable amount of evasive damage to help us turn the corner and close out the game. Meanwhile, Pelakka Wurm is one of our best Vivien's Arkbow hits against aggro, where gaining seven life is often the difference between winning and losing the game against a deck like Mono-Red. Plus, as a 7/7 trampler, it's a fine way to attack and kill our opponent.

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Tempest Caller looks janky, but it's actually very good in our deck. On the one hand, it's a finisher. We can simply cast it during our turn, tap down all of our opponent's blockers, and attack for lethal with our motley crew of dorks. On the other hand, with the help of Vivien's Arkbow, it's also a weird sort of super-Fog. The idea is that we can wait until our opponent goes to combat and activate Vivien's Arkbow to find a Tempest Caller and tap down all of our opponent's potential attackers. Not only does this save us a bunch of damage, but those creatures remain tapped, so we have the opportunity to untap and attack for a big chunk of damage. 


All in all, Simic Arkbow sort of killed it. We played five matches and won four, with our only loss coming to Mono-Red Aggro (which is a difficult matchup—a bit more lifegain somewhere in the 75 would help shore it up). Along the way, we managed to beat Grixis Control twice along with Jund and Rakdos Aggro, giving Simic Arkbow wins across the spectrum of archetypes. 

While Simic Arkbow felt good in most matchups (outside of Mono-Red), it's insanely good against control, to the point where playing against decks like Grixis and Esper almost feels like a bye. At two mana, we can often cast Simic Arkbow before our opponent has mana to counter it, and most control decks have very few ways to deal with an artifact. Grixis might have a copy or two of Bedevil, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria can tuck it back into our library, but that's about it. While Vivien's Arkbow is on the battlefield, we basically never need to cast a spell since we can just activate Vivien's Arkbow every turn, which allows us to build an uncounterable board of threats. And if our opponent ever manages to play something relevant, we can use our Frilled Mystics to counter it. It's hard to overstate just how good Vivien's Arkbow is against control.

As for changes to make to the budget build of the deck, a bit more lifegain might help against aggro (especially Mono-Red). Another copy of Pelakka Wurm in the sideboard might be enough, or more copies of Deathgorge Scavenger (which is also relevant against graveyard decks). Otherwise, I'm pretty happy with how the budget build turned out. Most of the upgrades (which we'll talk about in a minute) involve splashing into another color, which isn't really possible on a budget thanks to the cost of the mana base. This being said, if you have Breeding Pool in your collection, you should definitely play it over Simic Guildgate.

As far as Magic Arena goes, the deck has 21 rares and 3 mythics (including the sideboard), which isn't super expensive but also not cheap. If you're playing best-of-one, it gets a bit cheaper as you don't need the five sideboard rares. While most of the higher-rarity cards are necessary for the deck, if you're looking for a way to minimize the cost on Arena, you can trade Incubation Druid for something like Druid of the Cowl, and you could probably sneak by with a copy or two less of Dream Eater (although it's really good in the deck). Another option is cutting the Hinterland Harbors for something like Evolving Wilds or Woodland Stream, although if you go that direction, be warned that you will lose games (especially against aggro) thanks to all of the enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands.

All in all, Simic Arkbow felt really solid. It's super fun to play thanks to all of the tricky interaction and surprisingly effective. If you like leaving up your mana, playing creatures at instant speed, and sticking it to control decks, it seems like a pretty solid budget option for War of the Spark Standard!

Getting Simic Arkbow down in the ultra-budget range is pretty easy. You basically just do the things we were talking about during the Magic Arena part of the wrap-up: turn Incubation Druid into Druid of the Cowl and Hinterland Harbor into Woodland Stream. The deck should still be functional with these changes, although they will reduce the consistency a bit since Druid of the Cowl only makes green mana and Woodland Stream gives the deck eight tapped lands. Still, even with these downgrades, the deck should be fine to mess around with on the kitchen table or for casual play on Arena.

For our non-budget build this week, we splash into black for Sultai Arkbow. The deck is similar to the one we played for our videos but with some harder removal and more sideboard options thanks to some black cards. Ravenous Chupacabra is an upgrade over Exclusion Mage, killing our opponent's creature rather than bouncing it, while Hostage Taker can snag artifacts as well as creatures and Plaguecrafter can get rid of opposing planeswalkers. Meanwhile, Vampire Sovereign gives us some additional lifegain to help against Mono-Red. Then, in the sideboard, we get Massacre Girl as a sweeper against decks with small creatures, Kitesail Freebooter (which is especially sweet on our opponent's draw step, with the help of Vivien's Arkbow), some discard, and Unmoored Ego to deal with all of the Nexus of Fate decks floating around on Arena at the moment. While splashing into white also has potential, the Sultai build of Vivien's Arkbow has most of the same upsides as the one we played in the videos along with solutions to some annoying problems. If money isn't a concern, this is where I'd start.


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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